Monday, December 21, 2009

Local Foods Comparison

I was sent this story by Brenda Sutton, Cooperative Extension agent in Rutherford County. I think a similar study done here would find similar results. I think the comments of extending the growing season are very interesting. That is where the competition is less and the chance for profits is greater.

AMES, Iowa -- If you think local foods are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, think again. Research conducted last summer by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture shows few differences in price for Iowa-grown vegetables, eggs and meat when compared to similar non-local products.
“We wanted to look at prices for some of the fresh foods that might be found in a typical Iowan’s shopping cart,” said Rich Pirog, Leopold Center associate director who collaborated on the study with Iowa State University graduate student Nick McCann. “We found that during peak season, produce items at farmers’ markets were very competitive and in several cases lower than prices for the same non-local items found at supermarkets.”
The study surveyed prices for eight different vegetables sold at Iowa farmers’ markets in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ames and Iowa City. On the same day, prices were documented for similar produce from national or international sources being sold at supermarket chains in those cities. Prices were checked on five days during July and August.
The results showed no statistical differences for local and non-local vegetables during Iowa’s peak growing season: an average price of $1.25 per pound for locally grown zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, string beans, cabbage, onions, tomatoes and sweet corn from a farmers’ market, compared to $1.39 per pound for non-local items from a supermarket.
The lower prices for the local items can be attributed in part to competitive pricing of zucchini and summer squash at farmers’ markets. A two-week supply of those eight vegetables for a family of four, based on per capita consumption, would cost $15.03 at a farmers market, compared to $16.91 at a supermarket.
A second part of the study looked at prices for lean ground beef, pork chops and brown eggs sold at supermarkets, natural food stores and butcher shops in those four Iowa cities in June, July and August. Pirog said it was difficult to find products with similar attributes available at all venues to make meaningful comparisons. However, they did find that locally raised lean ground beef and bone-in pork chops from butcher shops are similar in price to their non-local counterparts from supermarkets.
Pirog said the study did not look at relative freshness, taste or overall quality of local and non-local products. The study also did not examine produce or food items sold under organic certification.
“Keep in mind that this study was conducted during the height of the Iowa growing season when produce was in plentiful supply from multiple vendors at farmers’ markets, and their prices were lower than at other times during the farmers’ market season,” Pirog said.
He added that the study also points to an obvious opportunity for growers who extend their production season by using greenhouses or high tunnels and market their harvest at competitive prices. “Given the increase in construction of high tunnels in the past two or three years, Iowa growers may be able to increase the supply of locally grown vegetables and sell to a wider array of market venues,” he said.
For more details, including comparative charts and tables, see the new report, “Is Local Food More Expensive? A Consumer Price Perspective on Local and Non-Local Foods Purchased in Iowa,” on the Leopold Center Web site at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Census Jobs in the Area

Here is a link from Fox News 8 in Winston Salem. There are nearly 4,000 part-time jobs that are being opened up for the 2010 census. If you are working and need extra income or know of someone who needs a job, please pass this information on. There are offices located in most areas of the state and I believe through-out the US. Hope this helps.,0,4806938.story

Here is a link the the US Census Bureau:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Local Foods Meeting

There were 25+ farmers in attendance last evening at our local foods meeting. It is hard for me to express the level of excitement felt by the group. Tim Will the Executive Director of Foothills Connect provided the group with a 35 minute presentation on his Rutherford County based project. It has taken him three plus years to get to this stage in the process but the level of commitment, his passion for helping local small businesses (that is what he calls farmers) and the technology involved is impressive. After his presentation, the group asked question for an additional 30 minutes. Tim never shied away from difficult questions and was patient and thorough in his explanations.

Michael Hylton, the head of the Stokes County Cooperative Extension program then introduced Brenda Sutton, head of the Rockingham County Coop Extension program. Brenda provided what I thought was tremendous news, the Rockingham County local foods group will be ready to start taking orders for food and delivering it to customers in March of 2010. Even better, the group welcomes the participation of Stokes County's farmers with open arms. In other words, thanks to Tim Will, his Foothills Connect group, the use of their web site and the willingness of the Rockingham County farmers, we don't have to recreate the three years of effort that Tim has been through. We can sign up our farmers and start selling produce within three months.

To find out more about this project go to and look up the fresh market page. Tim Will has won national acclaim for this project and this is just the beginning.